Several years ago people were advised to take Aspirin every day to help reduce the risk of developing heart problems. It was considered to be a wonder drug in this respect. However, today we are told by the The Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB) that people should not take Aspirin unless they really need it.
Aspirin can cause internal bleeding, which is a serious health problem. Also, recent research has concluded that it does not help prevent cardiovascular disease or reduce the rate of death amongst heart patients.
Doctors have been prescribing Aspirin to heart patients for many years as it is proven to help to reduce further problems of heart disease in those that have had a stroke or heart attack. This method is called secondary prevention. Where the guidelines have changed is in the use of Aspirin as a primary prevention of heart disease, that is where a person has had no previous problems that could cause future heart disease.
“Current evidence for primary prevention suggests the benefits and harms of aspirin in this setting may be more finely balanced than previously thought, even in individuals estimated to be at high risk of experiencing cardiovascular events, including those with diabetes or elevated blood pressure.” Dr Ike Ikeanacho, editor of the DTB
The British Heart Foundation provide some more clarity on the situation for people with heart conditions:
“It is well established that aspirin can help prevent heart attacks and strokes among people with heart and circulatory disease – so this group of people should continue to take aspirin as prescribed by their doctor. However, for those who do not have heart and circulatory disease the risk of serious bleeding outweighs the potential preventative benefits of taking aspirin. We advise people not to take aspirin daily, unless they check with their doctor. The best way to reduce your risk of developing this disease is to avoid smoking, eat a diet low in saturated fat and rich in fruit and vegetables and take regular physical activity.” June Davison, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation.
So, if your doctor has suggested that you take Aspirin as a primary preventative measure to reduce the risk of developing heart disease, then stop taking the medicine and arrange an appointment to discuss the matter as soon as possible. If you have been prescribed the medicine as a secondary prevention then you should continue to take the medicine. If in any doubt at all, consult your doctor / medical professional.
This page was written by Jon Wade, principal author and editor of Medimise.